“Felicity! Where are you?” Distracted as I prepared her siblings to leave for morning Mass, I foolishly left Felicity unsupervised for at least 5 minutes. Her silence is a sure indication of trouble. Bounding down the stairs two at a time, I call out again, “Where are you Felicity?” Reaching the bottom of the stairs, I hear the steady flow of running water and perceive a dim light streaming through the cracks of the closed bathroom door. I hastily make my way towards the bathroom, concerned about her safety near the hot water valve of the sink. Although I have told her several times not to go into the bathroom, the preventative action of keeping all bathroom doors closed has been the only success to date. Opening the door slowly, I prepare myself for the mess I will encounter. Toilet paper is strewn around the bathroom. The laundry basket on the floor has been emptied of its soiled contents. The area around the sink is covered with water. Having just turned three-years-old, Felicity stands on the stool in front of the sink, her sister’s dirty shirt around her neck. The front of her dress is drenched from top to bottom. I notice the soap dispenser lying on its side next to the faucet. Mounds of suds emerge from the bottom of the sink. As the cold water shoots from the spigot, Felicity’s tiny hands are hidden under the swelling bubbles. Smiling inside, I ask sternly, “What do you think you are doing?” She gazes up at me sheepishly, sensing my distress. “Wah anz.” She looks at me as if her eyes are imploring me to “punish her with a kiss.” Far from angry, I am actually delighted that she is motivated to engage in these self-help skills independently. Now it is just a matter of teaching her the need for supervision so she doesn’t inadvertently burn herself. It takes all my effort to stifle my laughter. My heart yearns to immediately “punish her with a kiss,” but first I must protect her from future danger. “Felicity, I don’t want you to get hurt. See that?” I say as I point to the hot water valve. “That is very hot,” I say as I make the sign for hot. Felicity understands “hot” well and copies me, making the sign herself. “Ot,” she utters. I continue, “If you want to wash your hands, you need to ask for help, ok?” She responds with the familiar sign and a sincere apology, “Sorry Mar Mar.” “It’s okay Felicity. I love you!” Finally, I get to punish her with a kiss! She hugs me in return. I continue to teach her the alternative behavior. “Felicity, I want to show you something.” Taking her out of the bathroom, I leave the bathroom door open a crack. “See how the door is open? Show me how to close it.” As soon as she follows directions and closes the door, I praise her. “Thank you for closing the door!” She smiles. “Now, if you want to wash your hands, come ask me for help. You can say, ‘Mar, wash hands please.’” She responds, “Wah anz peaz.” “Perfect! Thanks for asking. Now we can do it together so you won’t get hurt.” I take great delight in bringing her into the bathroom and prompting her through the hand washing routine, verbally narrating the sequence as we go. Drying her hands on the towel, she declares with great pride, “Ah done!”
Heavenly Father, how many times have I been disobedient? Knowing that I deserve to be punished, I tremble and run away from You in terror. And how many times have You desired instead to punish me with a kiss! You ask for obedience, not for your sake, but for my own only because You see how my disobedience hurts me. You want to protect me from danger and from pain. But knowing that I will fall into the same faults again and again, You are prepared to punish me with a kiss as many times as I appeal to your heart with sincere trust and love.
“Imagine that a father has two children who have been naughty and disobedient; and that when he comes to punish them, he sees one who trembles and runs away from him in terror, knowing in his heart that he deserves to be punished; and that his brother, instead, throws himself into his father’s arms, telling him that he’s sorry he has displeased him, he loves him, and to prove it he will be good from now on. Now if that child asks his father to punish him with a kiss, I believe that the happy father’s heart will not be able to resist his son’s filial trust, since he knows his sincerity and love. Yet he also knows that his son will fall into the same faults again, but he is always ready to forgive him if his son always appeals to his heart.”
-St. Therese of the Child Jesus
Educating Felicity & Friends
Punish Me with a Kiss!